Born to Serve
Businessman and philanthropist John Henry Felix was born at St. Francis Hospital and is now being honored by it as a model citizen. Can a birthplace have that much influence on one’s destiny? In Felix’s case, it has everything to do with it.�
Felix came into the world in the good graces of Franciscan nuns. Not only was this aligned with his family’s Roman Catholic faith, but his uncle, Dr. John M. Felix, was the hospital’s chief of staff at the time.
Coincidence or divine providence?
To know the high moral character of Felix — make that John Henry Felix, Ph.D. — and his good deeds in our community, it’s likely spiritually ordained. Inspired by his patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi, Felix pursues a purposeful life of giving to others in community service, business, government and education.
With impressive credentials and accomplishments, Felix is touted by St. Francis Health System as a model of Franciscan values.
As such, he will receive the inaugural St. Francis of Assisi Spirit Award to recognize his servant leadership. Supporters will honor Felix
at a St. Francis Healthcare System annual benefit from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Friday at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Tapa Ballroom.
“I look at this as a tribute to my family’s contributions to St. Francis,” Felix says. “My mother and aunt were ardent supporters of the St. Francis Sisters and their benevolent work in the community.”
Sister Act What began humbly in 1855 with three Sisters serving Moloka’i’s Hansen’s disease patients has evolved into a venerable organization that today is a leading health-care and aging wellness enterprise.
To attain that distinction, St. Francis is in the midst of a dramatic transformation from acute care to critically needed geriatric services. If Felix’s influence and visibility help that cause, he is a willing ambassador.
While much of the Sisters’ work has been out of the limelight, recent developments such as the sale of St. Francis West to Queen’s Medical Center and the reinvention of St. Francis’ Liliha campus have made headlines.
“We want to be a model of elderly care giving and advanced aging wellness,” says Jerry Correa, St. Francis president, chief executive officer and its first lay leader. “We envision a one-stop center for Hawai’i’s seniors and their caregivers. Our Kūpuna Village concept serves Hawai’i’s growing geriatric population and keeps alive the legacy of compassion and healing brought to the islands by the Sisters of St. Francis 130 years ago.”
Using its annual wine-pairing benefit dinner to honor Felix increases awareness of the St. Francis mission. Its mission is derived from taking a strategic look at how to sustain its worth in the community while preparing for the future.
Futuristic Focus With input from clients and healthcare stakeholders, the focus of St. Francis’s next level was very evident. Hawai’i’s aging population, caregiver concerns, and the changing demographics of the marketplace loomed large.
One in five islanders will be 65 years or older by 2030, and 247,000 households have family caregivers.
Together with healthcare partners and providers, St. Francis by 2020 will be re-purposed for kūpuna (elder) care.
As such, its 8-acre Liliha campus offers physician and ancillary services, chronic disease management, skilled nursing, senior living, and community outreach programs, as well as in-home assistance, active aging programs, caregiver support and comfort care.
Implemented in three stages, St. Francis is in the midst of Phase II — Kūpuna Village courtyard having adult day care, a community center and bistro — to be completed by spring 2018. Phase III will encompass an assisted living facility above the courtyard.
Felix’s civic service makes him cognizant of such needs.
As government and senior advocacy groups’ grapple with the integration and public services needed to accommodate Hawai’i’s aging population, St. Francis is already answering the call. Overcrowded hospitals and nursing home shortages will continue if more organizations like St. Francis don’t take the initiative to meet the community’s needs.
Silver Scenario Well-intentioned visions are not without challenges.
The Sisters of St. Francis, who once numbered 2,100 in 1960, have dwindled over the years to 390 today. It is a decline that many faith organizations, including the Catholic Church, are experiencing in generational change.
Vatican figures show there are 300,000 fewer nuns and priests in religious orders than there were 40 years ago, with a marked decline in Europe, the U.S., and Oceania. Those entering religious life today tend to be older than in past years, and nuns in all communities are grayer than ever.
The average age of Hawai’i’s St. Francis sisters is 74.
“We don’t think of ourselves as old but rather witnesses to history,” quips Felix, 87.
Dramatic shifts in religious affiliation and church loyalty also color America’s landscape.
Pew Research notes a rise in secularism, citing the percentage of Americans who believe in God, attend religious services and pray daily has declined significantly during the last eight years, especially among adolescents.
Can traditional values be recaptured to equate spiritualism with quality of life?
A Model Citizen Here’s where a role model such as Felix emulates exemplary living.
As theologian-philosopher Albert Schweitzer, one of Felix’s heroes, puts it: “Example is leadership.”
Schweitzer professed, “The purpose of human life is to serve and to show compassion and the will to help others.”
That ideology is akin to the virtues of St. Francis of Assisi for whom Felix’s award is named. Francis, one of the most venerated religious figures in history, took a vow of poverty to serve the needy and be an instrument of peace.
“My mother gave me the St. Francis Prayer that I read every night before I go to bed and each morning when I awaken,” Felix reveals. “It was ingrained in me at an early age that service above self is paramount.”
To see the over 200 service affiliations and recognitions Felix has on his 23-page r�sum� validates his creed.
A distinguished Eagle Scout, he has headed the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Red Cross (internationally, nationally and locally), March of Dimes (nationally and locally), Consular Corps of Hawai’i, Hawai’i Public Radio (founder), Young Presidents Organization, Civil Air Patrol, Junior Achievement and Academy of the Pacific.
Felix served as Honolulu city councilman between 1987 and 2001, during which he introduced the state’s first smoking ban.
He is currently chairman-CEO of Abilities Unlimited, which provides community-based support and work opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
Through service in the Boy Scouts, Felix says, “I learned the inexplicable value of giving and the joy of making a difference in the lives of others.”
Felix is a model of success in business and politics too. Past positions have included executive vice president for Hotel Operating Co. of Hawai’i (now Outrigger Hotels); strategy chief for Hawai’i’s first state governor, William F. Quinn; and owner of 12 restaurants, including La Ronde atop the Ala Moana Building.
He has been president-CEO of Hawai’i’s second-largest health insurance provider, Hawai’i Medical Assurance Association (HMAA), since 2006.
“I’m intrigued by challenges and turning failure into success,” Felix says. “It’s not so much about money than the ability to give more to worthy causes.”
Suffice it to say, St. Francis Healthcare System is impressed with Felix’s distinguished career in business, government, labor-management relations, community service, diplomacy and education spanning five decades.
“When I saw his resume, my reaction was, ‘Oh, my goodness, is this 20 people?” recalls Correa.
It is one highly motivated and selfless person whose family and religious faith shaped personal and professional values.
So as Felix accepts the St. Francis of Assisi Spirit Award on Friday, let’s toast all humanitarians of his kind. It’s aloha on a magnanimous level.